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March 23, 2023

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Clark College’s STEM Building gets finishing touches

New facility will be largest building on main campus when it is complete

By , Columbian Education Reporter
8 Photos
Mark Adams of Adams Interiors heat seals the chemical-resistant floor outside the chemical storage room in the new STEM Building on Thursday morning at Clark College.
Mark Adams of Adams Interiors heat seals the chemical-resistant floor outside the chemical storage room in the new STEM Building on Thursday morning at Clark College. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Workers were bustling on the construction site of the new STEM Building at Clark College on Thursday morning as the facility nears completion. At 70,000 square feet, it is the largest building on Clark’s main campus. It’s as long as a football field and is three stories tall. The $40 million facility should be completed in about a month and will open in the fall.

Just inside the main entrance, a worker drove a scissor lift to install glass in the vaulted space. Workers standing on scaffolding installed wood on a ceiling. In an elevator two men pushed a pallet of construction materials.

Designed by LSW and built by Skanska, the facility has fixed laboratories and classrooms but also includes adaptable spaces. The cavernous lobby’s folding partitions can be opened to accommodate an event or closed to create classrooms.

An interesting feature is the lobby’s three-story drop tower. It will allow engineering students to test their skill in designing containers to protect a raw egg from breaking when dropped.

Cadaver lab

In the state-of-the-art cadaver lab, a surgical lamp hangs over each of the six steel dissection tables. As instructors point out details, cameras will project the image onto TV screens. State law prevents images of cadavers to be photographed or recorded, but they can be projected for teaching purposes.

STEM Building at Clark College

 Square feet: 70,000.

 Facilities: Three floors with classrooms, labs, offices, study spaces and conference rooms plus a basement with mechanical equipment.

 Cool features:Six-table cadaver lab; drop tower for engineering students to experiment with dropping eggs.

 Cost: About $40 million.

 Sustainability: Seeking LEED Silver certification.

 Architect: LSW.

 Construction: Skanska.

 Opens: Fall 2016.

Adding the six cadaver tables to Clark’s existing five tables in the science building will give Clark one of the largest community college cadaver labs in the state, said Rhonda Morin, director of communications for the Clark College Foundation.

A multitude of safety features will keep students and staff safe while handling flammable chemicals with potentially dangerous fumes. Chemistry labs are equipped with fume hoods that vent outside and a body wash station/shower in case of chemical spills.

The chemical storage room will safely store chemicals in chemical refrigerators and steel cabinets with vents for flammable liquids. For added safety, the room’s walls are concrete block. The hallway has a take-out window that will allow students to check out chemicals to take back to the laboratory. In the hallway outside the chemical room a worker was heat sealing the chemical-resistant floor so that spills won’t damage the floor.

Clark College and Skanska are shooting for LEED Silver certification, so energy efficiency and sustainability are paramount. On the project, 99 percent of the construction waste is recyclable, said Cory Zonich, Skanska project manager.

A double-pane glass wall on both the north and south facades has a sealed layer of argon gas between the panes to increase insulation. The interior face of the glass has a low-emission coating to reduce heat emission to the building’s interior.

The lobby likely will become a gathering place for students and staff, and even on the coldest of winter days, it will be comfortable. When cold air gusts through the doors, radiant heating will warm the floors and entice the STEM students to stay longer.

The building’s finishes are attractive, but practical rather than fussy. Polished concrete provides both low maintenance and longevity. Sturdy natural linoleum flooring in the labs, prep areas and two upper floor corridors will withstand high traffic.

Some finishes — such as covered ceilings in corridors — were omitted for the benefit of engineering students. Corridor ceilings are open to the exposed electrical and mechanical systems so that students can see how the systems work.

Although the new STEM Building will hold science, technology and engineering classes, Clark’s math classrooms, which don’t require specialty laboratories, will remain in Bauer Hall, Morin said.

Skanska also built Crestline Elementary School and Henrietta Lacks Health and Bioscience High School, both in Vancouver.

Columbian Education Reporter